DC Comics moving offices to Frank Gehry-designed, open plan building

Comic News

As private social media posts over the last month or so have indicated, DC Comics is moving from its purpose-built offices in the building known as The Pointe in Burbank to new facilities. The new building is designed by world-famous architect Frank Gehry and is already a landmark looming over the I134 freeway – earning it the nickname “The Iceberg.” Although some have reported that DC is moving to the Warner Media lot, it absolutely is not, although the lot proper is not too far away, and the Iceberg is located in the heart of the WB/Disney media district in Burbank, and not far as the crow flies from The Pointe.

I’m told by sources close to DC that the planned move actually predates the pandemic, and involves other divisions besides DC. But the big change is that the new office will be the popular “open plan – hot desk” model that more and more companies are turning to post-COVID. This means no more than 30% of the work force will be present at any time. I have no idea how many people work for DC these days, but when the company decided to move to the West coast it was about 250 people, and 20% of staff was cut then, and more have been cut since. But it’s still probably more than 100 people.

It’s unknown whether high level execs will have their own offices. At the very least, CCO Jim Lee needs a drawing board for visual purposes, so I hope so.

The move and new office plan really isn’t that revolutionary – as most companies discovered over the last two years, business can go on just fine working remotely, and most people DON’T WANT TO GO BACK TO THE OFFICE.

In fact, while trying to find out more about this move, I was told that Marvel Comics in New York had gone to the open plan/hot desk model some time ago in the midst of COVID. Given their historical lack of office space, this makes a ton of sense.

However, DC’s move has not been met with joy by workers. “It sucks,” one of them told me point blank. There are several reasons for this, as far as I can make out.

First off, DC has been through the wringer for the past two years, with massive layoffs, a totally new business model, capricious management, and their last General Manager, Daniel Cherry III suddenly jumping ship (although I’m told this move was greeted with cheers internally.) Plus, throw in in the total uncertainty of Discovery taking over. So more change is more stress for the survivors.

Second, the move is awkward to begin with. The new building project was initially slated to be finished in 2023 so it seems to be a bit ahead of schedule. However, no one will actually be able to “move in” until June. So everyone has to lug all their crap home and keep it there.

And that brings me to my final point – DC staffers generally have a lot of crap. Back in the day when people generally had offices, folks in creative fields would turn offices (or even cubicles) into mini-environments or veritable installations. A tour of the DC offices was a tour of toys, comics, history, art, and cool things.

The old DC office in new. Photo: Heidi MacDonald

And now, all that is gone, washed away by corporate indifference. The old DC offices at 1700 Broadway were a legendary temple of comics history, ensconced in the vanishing world of New York publishing. It was first envisioned by Jeanette Kahn and Paul Levitz, and built with murals, statues and posters, each solid-doored editor’s office a personal haven devoted to this or that line. Hot desks do away with all of that.

The Pointe in Burbank. Photo: Heidi MacDonald

While the DC offices at the Pointe didn’t have quite this history, it’s worth noting that they were quite a source of pride for the then management team of Diane Nelson and Geoff Johns. The offices were designed specifically for DC and its operations, and on my sole visit, while it didn’t quite have the flair of 1700, it did have cool offices and personality, as you can see in this video from 2015. Everything from the bullpen to the library were included!

And if you want the full wistful Magnificent Ambersons tracking shot vibe, here’s a post where I detailed a tour that went everywhere from the lobby to the men’s room.

Inside DC’s office at The Point. Photo: Heidi MacDonald

There was a lot of corporate pride over the offices until new management basically started treating DC Comics like their least favored stepchildren.

And then there’s the DC Library, a storied and if not priceless then extremely valuable resource of back issues. This library was so valuable that at one point a whole press release went out about moving it from the East to the West Coast. This story contains a pretty painful quote from former president Diane Nelson:

“There’s a happiness that comes with being so close to the studio — seeing people they haven’t seen on a regular basis — and being in a creative space that feels like a comic company.”

Painful in so so many ways looking at the last two years!

The library is safe I’m told, but will not be stored at the DC offices – which is totally stupid, but then so is a lot of this stuff.

Looking back, former DC president Paul Levitz fought for his entire career to keep DC from moving to the west coast – and he was successful at it. Former co-publisher Dan DiDio also fought against the move, but was overruled, something I’m told the decision makers regret to this day.

Stepping back to the macro lens, real estate is something that leads to many regrets. The site of the new Iceberg, Burbank Studios, is a storied part of movie history. According to the LA Times, it was once owned by the WB then sold to NBC in 1951, which then unloaded it to a developer in 2007 (a move they later regretted according to scuttlebutt).

Artist rendering of the Iceberg Credit:: Gehry Partners

On the plus side, LA has a gorgeous new Frank Gehry building, and I’m sure DC folks will enjoy saying they worked in a building designed by one of the towering artists of the last 100 years.

Also on the plus side, although there is a lot of uncertainty over what the new David Zaslav-led regime will make of DC, I’m told everyone is very happy that Cherry is gone and the much-liked Anne DePies is in.

And who knows, with The Batman looking to be a big zeitgeist-defining hit, maybe DC execs will decide that DC Comics should be treated with the dignity and respect it deserves, and they could even get their library back. We’ve learned that office space is a mutable thing, especially in this Post-Pandemic/WWIII era, where we’re still figuring out everything  about how we live now.

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